By Alicia Lacy
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - While deployed soldiers focus on completing their missions, soldiers with the 1st Medical Brigade's 85th Medical Detachment, a combat stress control unit, have the mission of providing mental health and stress relief to soldiers coping with the stresses involved with deployments.
The brigade held a farewell ceremony Thursday for about 25 soldiers who are set to deploy Saturday to Iraq for a year.
Known as the "Stress Busters," the soldiers' mission in Iraq is to help other soldiers deal with stress using therapy dogs to help soldiers open up and begin talking.
As the drawdown continues in Iraq, the stresses soldiers deal with continue, and the use of the dogs should help the detachment help the soldiers complete their mission.
Capt. David Dougherty, a handler with the detachment, said the detachment will bring dogs to the soldiers and their units.
The dogs will don a patch of the unit so it's a part of the unit.
"Soldiers love to see something that reminds them of home," he said.
Dougherty said the soldiers can pet the dogs, which helps them relax and sets the atmosphere for them to open up about any challenges.
Occupational therapists, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists are deploying to meet the need.
Staff Sgt. Darius Cox used the therapy dogs on a previous mission and witnessed how the therapy worked firsthand.
Cox said the dogs go to the most stressed person and put its paw
on that person.
"It's an icebreaker," he said.
The dogs are bred, trained and donated to the Army by America's VetDogs: The Veteran's K-9 Corps, information from the brigade states.
America's VetDogs, which was created by the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, also provides guide dogs and service dogs for wounded veterans.
Contact Alicia Lacy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHfeatures.
Read more in next week's Fort Hood Herald.